GOP candidates slug it out in Orlando

10/22/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Last night in Orlando, the eight contenders for the nomination for presidency convened for a nationally televised debate on the Fox News Channel.

The event was part of the Florida GOP’s presidency 4 convention, and came a day after the candidates had tried to win the support of Evangelical Christians at the Values Voters Conference in Washington.

The candidates came out swinging – particularly Fred Thompson - who has been lambasted by the press in recent weeks as barely showing that he has desire – or energy – to actually be president. After Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney responded question about the conservative credentials, Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Thompson if he bought their answers.

Thompson then proceeded to say why Rudy Guiliani, who has consistently led every poll in Florida among Republican voters over the last year, isn’t conservative enough.

But the former New York City mayor showed he was prepared, and hit back.

Thompson responded, but Guiliani got the last word in on this exchange.

John McCain has mostly saved his harshest campaign rhetoric for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and he compared his career of public service with Romney’s.

Romney made his millions while working at Bain & Co., a management consulting firm.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul continues to make little headway in the polls, but his following allowed him to raise more about $5 million in the last quarter, more than John McCain. When asked about health care, Paul said nobody’s happy about managed care except for the drug companies and the HMO’s.

Later Paul was asked about his anti –war views, which made him a minority with the seven other white men on the dais, but actually more in sync with the American public. He was asked if his stance wasn’t similar to the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton on Iraq. Paul said he wanted to get the troops out quicker than Clinton.

And then there was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who tried to take an above it all perspective on the infighting between some of the other candidates.

Daryl Paulson is a professor political science at the University of South Florida. We asked for his thoughts on last night’s debate.

At the Values Voters Summit in Washington over the weekend, Mike Huckabee won a stunning 51 percent of the nearly 1,000 ballots case, indicating that he is becoming the favored son of the Christian right.

The only candidate desperately looking for the approval of the Evangelical community is Mitt Romney, who has put such a premium on his conservative credentials. That’s in part to remove focus on his previously more moderate stance on such issues, like abortion and gay rights. But there’s also the question of whether these Values Voters have an issue with Romney because he’s Mormon. Again, USF St. Petersburg Political Science Professor Daryl Paulson.

The next GOP debate to be held in Florida will take place next month in St. Petersburg, in the You Tube Republican debate to be televised on CNN.

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